Lilly Gunter darted forward and dove headfirst upon the Xfinity Center Pavilion hardwood with her arms extended to dig a ball that prolonged one of the longest rallies of Maryland volleyball’s match against Michigan. The libero’s scrappy play kept the ball in the air long enough for Eva Rohrbach to float a pass over the Terps’ hottest hitter in Sam Csire, who had already ripped 14 kills past the Wolverines.
With a handful of match points at her team’s disposal, the senior outside hitter elevated from the left pin, cocked her arm back and confidently unleashed a right-handed finish for her 15th and final putaway, punctuating Maryland’s four-point victory in set three to cap off the Terps’ 3-0 sweep over Michigan on Sunday in College Park.
Csire’s 15 kills led Maryland, which bounced back after dropping its Big Ten opener to No. 19 Purdue at home on Friday.
“I saw that Michigan was giving me a little bit of a line so I tried to test it at times,” Csire said. “…In my head, I was just like, ‘Just switch up your shots, kind of keep them on their toes a little bit,’ and it worked out.”
Csire quickly settled in by powering down two kills and added a block as Maryland (11-3, 1-1 Big Ten) grabbed four of the match’s first five points. Michigan, which entered Sunday’s match averaging the second-most aces per set in the Big Ten, struck back with consecutive aces to cap a four-point run that evened the set at six apiece.
The Wolverines went ahead 13-12 when Mira Chopra and Valentina Vaulet greeted Samantha Schnitta’s powerful spike with an echoing tag-team stuff, but it was the Terps who made the most noise as the competitive first set crescendoed.
Schnitta’s second ace followed consecutive kills from Csire, who added two more putaways to polish off a string of six straight Maryland scores that gave the Terps a 20-15 cushion.
Michigan (2-9, 0-2 Big Ten) tried to cool off Maryland’s sizzling attack by serving aggressively from the endline, which produced two more service errors that plated the Terps a one-set advantage.
“We knew that Michigan would be a very good serving team, and that was gonna be a risk-reward [scenario],” coach Adam Hughes said. “… I thought the best thing that started the match was that they went on a little bit of a run and we kind of stood tall in that moment.”
That lead doubled barely 20 minutes later.
Csire spiked four more kills in the early stages of the second frame and put Maryland ahead 13-10 on her 10th putaway. The Terps’ attack diversified as Laila Ivey, Rohrbach and Sydney Dowler each added kills, while Erin Engel took over from the endline to keep Maryland rolling.
The junior blitzed the Wolverines with three aces in the second stanza, including her final serve that sealed the Terps’ 10-0 run to waltz ahead by two sets via a 25-12 romp.
“We were watching some film of the Purdue match yesterday before practice and looked at how we can be a little bit more aggressive, and kudos to her,” Hughes said. “…She put some time and effort into it. She takes pride in her work.”
Maryland’s scoring spree bled into the third frame courtesy of Csire’s 11th kill before Anastasia Russ stacked two blocks on top of a putaway that propelled the Terps to a five-point cushion midway through the set.
Michigan’s Kendall Murray kept pace with Csire by slamming down her 10th and 11th kills on consecutive points to help the Wolverines whittle Maryland’s advantage to 12-11, spelling a Terps timeout. Already having surrendered a 2-0 lead before prevailing in five sets on two occasions this season, Maryland ensured it wouldn’t test itself again.
Ivey, Russ and Csire supplied three consecutive critical points following the timeout, and Rohrbach clamped down with back-to-back blocks as the Terps inched toward a bounce-back victory.
Ivey and Russ each pummeled two more putaways to push Michigan to the brink, and Gunter’s athletic dig with her team ahead 24-21 kept the day’s final rally alive for Csire to deliver Maryland its first Big Ten win of the season.